Graduation and the NFL claimed all three of the starting linebackers from Florida’s national championship team and that means incoming freshmen such as John Jones of Sarasota Booker will need to arrive in Gainesville ready to play from day one. Jones brings speed and big-time playmaking ability to a position of need for the Gators.
Jones signed with the Gators after an MVP season at Booker. He was second team All-State in Class 4A and a first team All-Area selection. Playing on both sides of the ball, the versatile Jones had 53 tackles and 17 sacks as a linebacker/defensive end and 52 receptions for 419 yards as a receiver.
Jones wants to be ready to play from day one at Florida which means he needs to add weight to his long, 6-3 frame. He’s lost 10-15 pounds while playing for the Booker basketball team.
“Right now I am trying to gain weight so I am not red-shirted,” Jones said. “I want to get up enough so I can be on the kickoff team. I am 190 now and I want to be 205 or so when I show up. They tell me to just be ready. They are going to use me as soon as they need me.”
Kick returners better be aware early on next year. They are going to feel like they are wearing a target on their chests when Jones is running down under the kick. He’s a headhunter that hits hard and makes plays. He likes sending opponents staggering to the sidelines.
“I think I am like a predator,” he said with certainty. Whenever a big play was made, I was always there. I think I am kind of like Joey Porter. I can play rush end or linebacker with my speed. ”
That reckless abandon that he plays with was what convinced him that he wanted to be a Gator. Jones was at a few practices and games where he saw the intensity live and decided he wanted to be a part of it.
“I liked the speed and quickness on defense,” he said. “Their linebackers really impressed me a lot. I just saw with all the big time players that have just come through there, I know if I just listen to what they are teaching I can end up being like all those players.
“I just can’t wait to be around all the players and around that national championship atmosphere. Guys like Dustin Doe are really fun to be around.”
He also loves the fact that the Gator recruiting class was the consensus number one class in the nation. The competition for playing time will be tough, but he knows the number of big time athletes the Gators are bringing in will only make him better and will equal to more championships.
“To me it is special, knowing that we have the number one recruiting class … it speaks a lot for itself,” he said. “It just means we’ll need to come in and go to work.”
John Jones has a chance to play early and often at Florida with the limited number of bodies at the linebacker position. His athletic ability is what head Coach Urban Meyer preaches in regards to recruiting and his attitude should bode him well.